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Could food affect your mood?

18 October; Author: Niyija

Research has found a link between what happens in the stomach and one’s mental well being. Find out what you could eat to boost your mood.

The idea that there’s a direct link between the stomach and the brain is the subject of a new field of study entitled psychodietetics, which explores the very real connection between what you eat and how you feel.

The stomach – the second brainmood-food

“It’s referred to as the stress/gut/brain connection whereby nerve cells in the gut use serotonin, a molecule that has a role to play in various body functions such as sleep regulation, pain and mood, to signal information back to the brain. Even more interesting is the fact that it was discovered in 1981 that the gut manufactures nearly all the body’s serotonin with only 1% manufactured in the brain!” clinical psychologist Ryan Cooper explains.

“The stomach is referred to as the ‘second brain’ – firstly because the stomach and the actual brain develop from the same embryonic tissue and secondly because the stomach can function on its own without the actual brain telling it what to do; it is a self-sufficient system,” says Cooper.

“As a result, the health of the gut is closely linked to mental state. So, for example, if one of my clients is suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), I often find it is linked to a psychological concern. People who are pre-disposed to ‘bottling up’ their emotions or who tend to carry much anxiety are often candidates for stomach difficulties. Remarkably, IBS is often treated with an anti-depressant as this can help regulate serotonin levels.”

Cooper’s approach is backed by the findings of a key 2009 study in India that looked at the effect of a serotonin deficiency on the receptors in the gut and the brain. It suggested that physical symptoms such as IBS, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea may occur as a result of a deficiency in serotonin. Receptors are linked throughout the body and therefore underlying depression can manifest itself in these ways.

Food to enhance your mood

In light of the importance of gut health in relation to mental health, the intake of the correct types of food to support digestive wellbeing becomes paramount.

“Your diet influences the levels of hormones that your body produces. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates can help raise serotonin levels. Serotonin is an important brain chemical that helps elevate your mood and also has an effect on sleep. Dairy products also contain tryptophan which is an amino acid that is used to make serotonin, and can therefore have the same effect,” says Linda Drummond, registered dietician and Kellogg nutrition and public affairs manager.

A study at the University of Cardiff in the UK found that people who had a higher fibre intake had less emotional distress, fewer cognitive difficulties and less fatigue or to put it more simply, they felt happier, more energetic and had better mental function. This was attributed to an improvement in digestion and the more efficient removal of waste products.

“The intake of fibre meant that waste products didn’t linger in the gut and subjects therefore not only felt physically lighter but also emotionally lighter,” explains Drummond.

How to get the balance right

By balancing your intake of different kinds of fibres, you help to ensure balance in all components of your digestive wellbeing.

Insoluble fibre, such as wheat bran, is responsible for moving waste through the gut and ensuring regularity. Soluble fibre, such as that found in apples and oats, is responsible for helping to keep blood sugar levels normal and help lower LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.

However, because it takes time to eat properly and most people lead time-starved lifestyles, many people reach for a quick energy fix like chocolate when stressed.

“This initially makes one feel better, thanks to naturally occurring chemicals in cocoa, such as tryptophan, which is used to make serotonin in the brain, and sugar which provides energy. Interestingly, chocolate is often considered the ‘food of the gods’ for its anti-depressant quality. However, this results in a person’s energy levels rapidly bottoming out,” says Cooper.

Ultimately, the best way to maintain a healthy balance in the body’s ‘second brain’ is to eat the right foods with fibre-containing complex carbohydrates being at the top of the list. This ensures that, even when everything around is running awry, both your body and ‘minds’ stay centred and balanced.

 mood-food 2


From: www.all4woman.co.za
Sources: Eat Right, Fiber-pedia (2009) Kellogg Company, Mahan K, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL (2012). Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. 13th ed. Elsevier, Missouri, Sikander A, Rana SV; Prasad. 2009. Department of Super Speciality of Gastroenterology. Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research. and Smith A et al. (2001) High fibre cereals reduce fatigue. Appetite.

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